Midsummer Reading Ideas for Your Kids

July 22, 2016

mid summer reading

How did it get to be the middle of July?  We’ve had a whirlwind summer, hosting our niece’s wedding shower, several trips to Michigan and then finally attending our niece’s wedding last weekend. It was a very special day and such a fun wedding. We were able to reconnect with many old friends and spend some extra time with family. It all meant so much to us, but by Sunday, we were exhausted!

As for what’s happening here in Naperville, our town’s summer sports are over and the park district activities are winding down. The streets are much quieter, because so many families are on vacation.After all, school starts again in just three weeks! However, there’s still time to get some summer reading done before the middle of August rolls around. Now that I am finally recovered after our big weekend, I want to share some wonderful books with you for your midsummer reading pleasure! I’ve found these books by connecting with my many Instagram friends, through many trips to our local library, through reading reviews and following publisher’s announcements. It’s always so much fun to track these books down and read them myself. I think I have some memorable ones for you!

chapter books for midsummer reading

midsummer reading chapter book

I am sure many of you are as concerned and upset as I am about what has been happening in our country this summer. As I learned about yet another act of violence, I was reading this book and I realized this is a perfect title to add to my list of Kindness books that I wrote about in the spring. In The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz, Nina is spending her summer between middle school and high school pretty much on her own. Her parents, both lawyers, go to work early and return late, her older brother is always busy, her best friend has discovered boys and only wants to talk about clothes and makeup and her beloved grandma has died. So Nina spends a lot of her day in her room looking at all of the houses in her cul-de-sac. On the first day of summer she watches her next door neighbor, Mrs. Chung who lives by herself, struggling to plant her garden full of marigolds as she always does, even though she has a broken leg. After Mrs. Chung gives up and goes inside, Nina remembers something her favorite teacher told the class on the last day of school. He said, “It is very often the ordinary things that go unnoticed that make a difference.” At that moment, Nina comes up with a plan that will change her summer and change her neighbors’ summers, as well. Nina decides to do something unnoticed every day for the 65 days of summer and see if she can really make a difference. This is an inspiring story that I wish I’d found earlier, because it would make a good beginning of summer read aloud. However, the principle idea holds true in any season of the year. And maybe that’s what we all need to do right now. We need to decide to do something ordinary and unnoticed for someone and see if it makes a difference. I’ll bet it does!

Kindness, caring, middle school

midsummer reading chapter book

In the thing about jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, we are introduced to Suzy Swanson. Suzy notices many things about the world that others don’t even realize exist, and she can quote scientific fact after fact to anyone who will listen. So to Suzy, the fact that her lifetime best friend has drowned while on a beach vacation, makes no sense at all. Especially, since the last time she saw Franny, Suzy had played a terrible trick on her. And now Suzy would never be able to apologize. As a result, Suzy has decided never to talk again.

The story follows Suzy through seventh grade and describes her struggle to understand about Franny and to find a way to live with her grief. Suzy insists that Franny couldn’t have drowned, she was much too good of a swimmer, so Suzy sets out to find a reason. And along the way, she discovers that there are still people out there who love her and want to help her to find a way to forgive herself.

Grief, healing, friendship, middle school

midsummer reading chapter bookThe Tale of Rescue by Michael J. Rosen, is a perfect book for the dog lovers in your life who might be looking for an exciting story, but are interested in reading something that is a bit shorter than the average chapter book. This selection received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

The Tale of Rescue tells the story of a cattle dog and how he rescued a Florida family caught in a blizzard the the Appalachian Mountains. The book is full of suspense and adventure, and offers proof of a dog’s tremendous will and why a dog is truly man’s best friend.

Adventure, dogs

picture books for midsummer reading

midsummer reading picture book

In A Perfect Place for Ted by Leila Rudge, introduces us to Ted, who has always been a pet store dog. He longs for somewhere to call home, somewhere that is perfect for him. However, the circus doesn’t like his tricks and the pet pageant doesn’t like his looks. However, when he sees a sign advertising for “A furry friend for Dot. Must enjoy long walks and ball games”, he thinks he might have found his perfect place! This is another ‘perfect’ story for the dog lover in your house!

Fun read aloud, dogs

midsummer reading picture book

The Three Questions is a beautifully written and illustrated story by Jon J. Muth and is based on Leo Tolstoy’s short story, The Three Questions. Tolstoy’s story was written for adults, and in this version, Mr. Muth tells the story with kindness and warmth so that children can understand Tolstoy’s ideas. Jon Muth strives to help children understand that showing compassion for those around them, and for living in and appreciating the moment, is the secret to how a person should live. In fact, a good friend of mine, who is a retired third grade teacher and is one who always cared about her kids and strived to help them grow in kindness during the year, would begin the school year by reading and discussing this story. Maybe that is why so many of her kids were always the caring ones.

Kindness, caring

midsummer picture book                           midsummer reading picture book

One of the most touching books I’ve read recently is The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers. I’m a huge fan of Mr. Jeffers and I always share his books with my kindergarten classes and first graders. This selection tells the story of a little girl who appreciated, and was always amazed, by the world around her. Every page, beginning with the amazing end papers, gently and tenderly shows the little girl and her Grandpa together, whether its telling stories, looking at the stars or wondering about a flower.  These wondrous times continued until one day she found an empty chair, instead of seeing her special grandpa ready to help her understand the curiosities of the world. So the girl decides she must keep her heart in a safe place, in a bottle she wears around her neck. She no longer sees the wonders of the world as she grows up, always with the heavy bottle hanging around her neck. But she knows her heart is safe. This goes on until she meets a little girl who teaches her that maybe it’s safe to let her heart come out, and to let her enjoy the wonders of the world once more.

Grief, healing, grandparents

midsummer reading picture book

The Happiest Tree by Uma Krishnaswami. Meena is excited that her class has written, and is going to perform an updated version of Red Riding Hood. When she eagerly starts working on the sets, she dumps a can of paint. After she receives her part in the play, she immediately falls on stage during rehearsal causing all of the other trees to moan, “Meee – na!”

At dinner that night, she laments about her clumsiness to her parents. Her mother assures her, it’s okay because she’s growing so quickly and her dad insists it’s okay not to be perfect. But Meena still feels miserable. While shopping with her mother the next day, she sees a yoga class for kids going on nearby. After a few classes, she begins to gain some confidence and not topple over. She learns about breathing and relaxing. She even learns how to do the tree pose!

I’m always so glad to find a book about yoga. Because it’s becoming more and more popular, I always had requests for yoga stories. I’d definitely recommend this one!

Yoga, confidence, read aloud 

midsummer reading picture book

The Bell in the Bridge by Ted Kooser tells the story of Charlie. Charlie is visiting his grandparents on the farm for two weeks in the summer while his parents go on vacation. Unfortunately, his grandparents are too busy with cooking, cleaning and driving the tractor to spend any time with Charlie. This meant that he was bored and lonely and the two weeks seemed like a really long time. So Charlie goes fishing, plays along the stream and drops stones from the bridge. When he decides to hit the bridge railing with a large stone, it rings like a church bell and then pretty soon the echo returns to him. He visits the bridge every day, and on one visit, after he hits the bridge railing with the special rock, he not only hears an echo, but also another sound as well. Could it be that there’s someone down stream who is returning his bong? Maybe he’s not really alone? Suddenly his summer becomes a lot more fun!

The warm illustrations enhance this cozy story of a little boy’s solo summer adventure. It makes you wish for the peacefulness of the countryside and the time to go exploring.

Read aloud, Summertime, bridges


midsummer reading picture book

When I first checked out Reach for the Stars by Serge Bloch, I thought it would be a perfect graduation gift. It would be, and in fact Amazon includes it on a list with many other graduation picture books, but it’s also a wonderful choice for a read aloud in a classroom to introduce idioms. When this book is shared, it can provoke a discussion not only about life and the obstacles you might encounter along the way, but also about the true meanings of the idioms that are found on every page. From “you won’t always be top dog” to “when you have all your ducks in a row, you’ll fly”, your kiddos will be thinking and asking “just what does that mean?” The simple illustrations are delightful and are great depictions of every thought.

graduation, idioms


I found this book at my library just before I left for a vacation in Michigan, which included many trips to the beach. I love Lake Michigan and have so many fond memories of family times during our yearly trips to Manistee to visit my great grandmother every summer. Lake Michigan might not be the ocean, as this book describes, but it has its own wonder, and the cover of this book immediately brought those fun times to mind! This book is written by Alison Lester, one of Australia’s most popular authors, and is the 20th anniversary addition. The soft colors in the cozy illustrations describe the part imaginary and the part real world of a day at the beach. You feel the peacefulness, the joy and the adventure that such a day might include. After rereading it just now, I’m yearning for a day at the beach!

Summer, beaches, read aloud

midsummer reading picture book

Part of my joy of summer, is sitting outside as it’s getting dark and watching the lightening bugs come out. I imagine this grows out of so many favorite memories from my childhood and from my boys’ childhoods. How many nights did I spend outside with my sisters and brother catching fireflies and filling up our glass jars? Our dad, of course had punched holes in each our of the lids so our new little pets could breathe. What was so unusual about these evenings was the fact that I was normally an inside girl who would much rather be curled up reading a book instead of going outdoors, but those summer evenings would lure me outside and I (who would NEVER, EVER touch a bug) would happily catch lightening bugs and fill my jar. I think my kids found just as much joy as I did, when it came to catching fireflies. So many summer nights, they begged to stay up and wait for the lightening bugs to emerge. The only difference was that they had bug boxes, rather than glass jars (of course, they would never have been allowed to run around with a glass jar! Haha!). So when I discovered this new book recently, Among a Thousand Fireflies by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder I was immediately a fan. Ms. Frost’s poem describes how one firefly discovers a very special friend in the midst of thousands of lights one starry summer evening. Her lyrical words are illustrated with Mr. Lieder’s amazing photographs. This is one you don’t want to miss!

Summer, fireflies, read aloud

Finally, I want to share some links with you that you might find helpful when you’re looking for books for your kids, when they’re saying “I don’t know what to read”!

midsummer reading websites

Brightly is a wonderful site that I really enjoy following. You can find wonderful lists of all types of books divided by age, genre, and interests, as well as interesting articles about books and reading by many different authors. I suggest you check it out!

Finally, if you are looking for some new titles for your youngest kiddos, or for baby gifts, School Library Journal, one of the best source for kids’ book recommendations, has assembled a great list of the newest and best board books, Across the Board: The Latest for Small Readers.  

In closing, I wish you many lazy summer days filled with lots of time for midsummer reading adventures! What books will you be reading? What books do you suggest? Let us know in the comments below.

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More about Susan

Hi! I'm Susan, a wife, a mom and a recently retired elementary school librarian with 22 years of experience. One of my greatest joys is to connect kids with a perfect book, which then leads them to a lifelong love of learning. Through my blog, I'm hoping to reach parents, their children and teachers to help them find those special books. I’m also hoping to offer some tips and techniques to use with your children as you read aloud.

I appreciate your comments!

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